'Church welfare is role model for public assistance reform'

The Church's welfare plan provides a role model for welfare reform, according to statements made by the Heritage Foundation in its journal Policy Review.

In a Feb. 11 article in the Deseret News, the newspaper's Washington correspondent Lee Davidson reported that the foundation noted that while the LDS welfare plan provides material necessities, "it focuses instead on strengthening the family, teaching a vigorous work ethic and helping the needy to help themselves. Its themes are ones the secular world would do well to study."Davidson described the Heritage Foundation as "the nation's best-known conservative think tank," and reported the organization said it has found where the nation should look for true welfare reform: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Davidson's article quoted Tucker Carlson, assistant editor of Policy Review, and author of the Heritage Foundation report: "Mormons realize that welfare has the same properties as nitrogylcerine: If utilized correctly, it can heal and sustain; if used wantonly, it will certainly destroy."

Carlson wrote in the article that a sign of the LDS welfare plan's success is that able-bodied people who are recipients of Church welfare become independent in an average of about 100 days.

"Compare this to the federal welfare system in which half of the families . . . will remain on the dole for over 10 years. The explicit aim of Mormon welfare is to wean people from it. That it succeeds is its greatest achievement."

Davidson reported that Carlson outlined several reasons he found why the LDS welfare plan is highly successful and why government welfare is not. Among those reasons:

LDS welfare recipients work for what they receive, including working at the Church's 50 canneries and 135 food production sites in the United States alone. Having recipients work lowers the cost of what they receive.

"This policy is a manifestation of the Mormon understanding that people need to work to retain their dignity and that labor is good for its own sake," Carlson wrote. "Those unwilling to work are cut off from Church aid; people who are drawn to the Mormon Church by the hope of a free lunch soon look elsewhere for handouts."

Home teachers visit Church members every month; during those visits financial and other problems may be discovered and corrected before they become critical.

"While some families, especially those inactive in the Church, may resent what they perceive as an intrusion into their lives, this system allows those who need it to be offered aid. It also emancipates them from the indignity of asking for it," Carlson wrote.

The LDS welfare plan is administered by local bishops, who are not paid clergy but who are often professionals or business owners.

"The net result is a clergy that is wise in worldly matters and therefore better able to help [the Church's membersT in need. Mormon bishops are able to speak from experience when they plan a welfare recipient's ascent from poverty," Carlson noted.

Bishops tailor benefits exactly to the needs of families and give them no more than is necessary. They help recipients learn to budget and live on their incomes. And the Church normally avoids giving cash, opting instead to provide food or to directly pay other bills itself.

The Church aggressively encourages families to take care of their own members, including elderly parents. Carlson noted that besides saving money, this tends to bind families together.

The Policy Review quoted former Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services Constance Horner, who said: "People in need want to be connected to family and community. The Mormon Church recognizes these ordinary human facts. Our governmental social welfare systems, which isolate those in need and reinforce dependence, do not."

"The Mormon culture promotes the belief that turning to welfare is a last resort. "This belief provides a powerful incentive for families on welfare to become independent as soon as possible," Carlson wrote.

The Church's encouragement for members to store at least a year's supply of food, clothing and [other emergency suppliesT helps many avoid the need for welfare. Carlson wrote, "These supplies have sustained many an unemployed Mormon family." He added that LDS teachings of thrift and self-reliance also reduce welfare needs.

Mormons are taught not only to take care of themselves, but also to give generously to others.

"Every Mormon is asked to fast for two meals on the first Sunday of every month and to give . . . the value of those meals to the Church welfare program," Carlson wrote. "These fast offerings come in addition to the 10 percent of his income that each faithful Mormon [tithesT annually.

"Utah, which is two-thirds Mormon, has the highest per-capita donations in the country. Most of this money goes to the Church, enabling it to help the needy."

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